Recently, Charlie Rymer was on the Golf Channel talking about how Phil had experimented with the belly putter when his putting went awry last year. Charlie believed that the long putter helped Phil get the feel back for releasing his lead hand down the line rather than holding off his release, AKA the ‘chicken wing.’ After a bit of time with the long putter, Phil took that feeling back to his short putter and subsequently won the AT&T. This got me thinking about how you can get that same “long putter” feeling without switching to a long putter.
One of the cornerstones of Jimmy Ballard’s teaching is “connection”. Ballard’s insistence in keeping ones arms connected to the body essentially gives the player the same feeling of control that is afforded by a long putter. To get this feeling you need to lay your lead arm on top of (not beside) your chest. Ballard likes to recall that Hogan felt like he was connected at the elbows to his chest, all the way up to waist high on the back-swing. In the case of a putt, it is just a very short back-swing.
A great way to practice this motion is to utilize the Swing Shirt we reviewed. However, you can also put a handkerchief under the armpit of your lead arm. Make sure you place your lead arm on top of your chest (not beside your chest) and feel it connected to the top of your chest from the armpit all the way down to the elbow (with your elbow pointed at your body towards your left hip joint). You then swing the putter with the movement of your whole shoulder joint and your chest.
When done properly you will be able to let the lead arm and lead hand release the toe of the putter head and avoid the ‘chicken wing’ that Phil was fighting. Make sure that you feel that the lead arm is always ‘shorter’ on the grip, and the dominant hand is ‘longer’ on the grip, so that, like a hockey player, you can square up the club with the lead arm as the inner force and the dominant hand as the outer, throwing force.
Once you’ve tried this, you’ll really see the roll of your putts improve, their line roll more true, and more will have the right speed to find the hole. And you’ll have no rule trouble! Give it a try…